The Nittany Lions have said that they feel good about themselves, even though the media and fans seem to be dissing their performances. Even in winning, as they did Saturday, they have looked lackluster and unimpressive. Some of the early season problems are still problems, yet somehow they have managed to amass a 6-1 record, which implies bowl eligibility, and are 3-0 in the Big Ten.
Saturday’s effort was pretty much business as usual for this squad, as Penn State (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten) defeated Purdue (3-3, 1-1 Big Ten) 23-18 before a less than sold out Beaver Stadium on a clear, but windy Homecoming Day.
Although total yards gained were about even (367 for Penn State and 344 for Purdue), PSU played the kind of ball control game needed in order to prevail. In a balanced passing/running attack, the quarterback tandem was 10-23 for 185 with one interception, while the running game was good for 182, with feature back Silas Redd ringing up 131 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries. Crowd favorite Curtis Dukes had 6 for 21 yards. Without Derek Moye, the receiving corp stepped up, led by Justin Brown with four catches for 86 yards, including a circus qualifying one-hander with the other hand tied up with a defender, a catch that amazed the crowd and made the highlight reels.
The defense was surprisingly spongy up the middle. Purdue managed to be able to run for 162 yards against the vaunted front seven. However, the mighty defenders redeemed themselves with Nate Stupar’s two interceptions.
The game was won on the field goal kicking and punting of Anthony Fera. Let us hope that he lays off the booze for a while, because he is fast becoming a crucial element of a team with few or deficient offensive weapons. Fera was 3-3 through the uprights on a very windy day, with his long one being 40 yards. He punted six times for an average of 44.5 yards, with three inside the 20 and a long one of 69 yards. On the return end, Chaz Powell had a delightful 92 yard kickoff return, marred by a questionable unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Alas, the defensive special teams squads weren’t functioning all that well, giving up kickoff return yardage of 146, including a 71 yard run by Raheem Mostert.
Red zone difficulties let up a bit for the Nittany Lions. On this day, the problems were mostly concerned with moving the ball into the Red Zone. Today’s Scuzzy Red Zone Wrap-Up is brought to you by Purina Turkey Chow (“gobble us up!”):
- After Carson Wiggs’ 44 yard field goal missed, Penn State drove down the field inside the Red Zone and scored. Touchdown.
- At the end of the first half, PSU had first and ten on the Purdue 12 after a personal foul by the Boilermakers. Field Goal.
- In the third quarter, McGloin completed a 20 yard pass to the Purdue 18. Two plays later, Silas Redd ran the ball in from the nine. Touchdown.
- McGloin completed a pass to Justin Brown for 34 yards to the Purdue 23, then threw an interception that was returned 55 yards. Interception.
How was the Turkey’s prognostication? Well, I got a couple things right. Penn State won as predicted and did not cover the 12 point spread. Remember, no one ever went broke in the past decade betting against Penn State covering the spread. (Expressed as a maxim, but it could be a lie. It sure as hell seems that way, though.) This Turkey predicted that the “under” would be the way to go with respect to total score, but the final points total of 41 was just a gnat’s eyelash over the O/U of 40.5.
Trivia: Penn State leapfrogged Auburn and Washington to end up at #22 on the USA Today poll. They received 130 votes (best of the rest) in the AP poll, but fell short of the Top 25.
Now, what about this attendance thing? It was a nice, albeit windy, fall day. The students typically arrive late to games starting at noon, so we’ll give them a bye, but what about the alums and other fans — on Homecoming Weekend, no less. I know, I know. There’s a recession going on out there. Still, I never thought I would see Beaver Stadium looking as anemically populated for a Homecoming game as I did on Saturday. One has to wonder whether this is really STEP Program backlash. I know one season club seat holder who is giving up his seats after this year because he is pissed off at the Athletic Department for their heavy-handedness with season ticket holders.
I’ll be back later in the week for a preview of what usually is a very tough away game at Evanston, as the Lions take on the Northwestern Wildcats (2-4, 0-3 Big Ten).